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Balancing the role of student and motherhood : the experience of students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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The conceptualisation of a mother’s role is often accompanied by various ideas about how and what should be done. Therefore, paying attention to the subjective experiences of this role in various contexts is of great importance. This understanding will add to the exploration of other roles played by women in society, such as being a student. It is evident in research that pursuing tertiary education and being a mother places great pressure on many women in South African universities. This study explored the experience of student mothers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (on the Pietermaritzburg Campus) to understand their roles and how they balance being both a student and being a mother. This study provides a detailed account of the experience of student mothers, including the ways in which student mothers manage their dual roles, utilise available services and ultimately try to balance their dual roles. This study employed an interpretivist approach, which argues that people’s perspectives can be understood through their subjective experiences. Interpretivists assert that there is no specific route to knowledge and that there is no one reality. A qualitative approach was used with a purposive and convenience sampling strategy. One focus group discussion and eight individual interviews with student mothers were conducted and thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The key themes from the study revealed that student mothers’ experience of motherhood is characterised by time constraints and the inability to find a balance between the two roles. Further, it was found that students’ plans changed after they became mothers. Other students also reported challenges that were related to managing time between the two roles. Concerning coping strategies, student mothers discussed the support that they anticipated from their institutions of higher learning as well as the actual support they received. Other themes highlighted the impact of motherhood on academic work. Lastly, student mothers expressed some guilt about their situation and this raised the need for reparation with their family members.


Master of Science in Counselling Psychology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2016.


Theses - Psychology.